talking about the future

 

1. When we know about the future we normally use the present tense.

  • We use the present simple for something scheduled or arranged:

We have a lesson next Monday.
The train arrives at 6.30 in the morning.
The holidays start next week.
It is my birthday tomorrow.

  • We can use the present continuous for plans or arrangements:

I’m playing football tomorrow.
They are coming to see us tomorrow.
We’re having a party at Christmas.

2. We use will to talk about the future:

  • When we make predictions:

It will be a nice day tomorrow.
I think Brazil will win the World Cup.
I’m sure you will enjoy the film.

  • To mean want to or be willing to:

I hope you will come to my party.
George says he will help us.

  • To make offers and promises:

I'll see you tomorrow.
We'll send you an email.

  • To talk about offers and promises:

Tim will be at the meeting.
Mary will help with the cooking.

3. We use (be) going to:

  • To talk about plans and intentions:

I’m going to drive to work today.
They are going to move to Manchester.

  • When we can see that something is likely to happen:

Be careful! You are going to fall.
Look at those black clouds. I think it’s going to rain.


4. We often use verbs like would like, plan, want, mean, hope, expect to talk about the future:

What are you going to do next year? I’d like to go to University.
We plan to go to France for our holidays.
George wants to buy a new car.

5. We use modals may, might, and could when we are not sure about the future:

I might stay at home tonight, or I might go to the cinema.
We could see Mary at the meeting. She sometimes goes.

6. We can use should if we think something is likely to happen:

We should be home in time for tea.
The game should be over by eight o’clock.

7. Clauses with time words:

In clauses with time words like when, after, and until we often use a present tense form to talk about the future:

I’ll come home when I finish work.
You must wait here until your father comes.
They are coming after they have had dinner.

8. Clauses with if:

In clauses with if we often use a present tense form to talk about the future:

We won’t be able to go out if it rains.
If Barcelona win tomorrow they will be champions.

WARNING: We do not normally use will in clauses with if or with time words:

I’ll come home when I will finish work.
We won’t be able to go out if it will rain rains.

But we can use will if it means a promise or offer:

I will be very happy if you will come to my party.
We should finish the job early if George will help us.

9. We can use the future continuous instead of the present continuous or going to for emphasis when we are talking about plans, arrangements and intentions:

They’ll be coming to see us next week.
I will be driving to work tomorrow.

 

 

Exercise

Comments

Hi Sir Peter M,
as you said that ( In modern English, 'will' is more common and 'shall' sounds quite formal and often old-fashioned. In most contexts there is no difference in the meaning, however we cannot use 'shall' to describe typical behaviour/habits: )
but i thing here the meaning is being changed in the usages of "will" & "shall" as following sentences,
(A)= will we get a cup of coffee in this hotel ?
(B)= shall we get a cup of coffee in this hotel ?
its something like according to my knowledge in (A) its something like this that they serve coffee in this hotel to us or not, like speculations, may be they serve may be not, but in (B) that asking about we will take coffee here or not ? isn`t it like this sir ?

Hi Baloch Faisal,

That is correct, and there are other differences as well, as I said in my earlier reply. The example you provide here is a functional use of 'shall' as a way of making requests, which is not really the focus of this page ('talking about the future').

If you take a look at the link in the earlier reply then you'll see a more comprehensive list.  Unfortunately, we must deal with a large number of queries and comments here on LearnEnglish every day and we simply don't have the time to provide with comprehensive grammatical explanations in the comments sections.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

hi Sir,
where we use "shall" and "will" ?
often people say that use "shall" for "i" and "we", for "he", "she", "it" use "will",
but there are some phrases like where for "he"or "she" the word "shall" is used like
A=(according to constitution the president who shall be the head of state and shall represent the unity of the republic) so how and in which sense "shall" is used here ?
and also there are phrases like
B=(i will help you, whenever you need my help, i will be standing with you) so if we were used "shall" here in stead of "will" would it be incorrect or the meaning would be changed ? pleases explain both phrases A and B to me.

Hello Baloch Faisal,

The traditional rule which you refer to ('shall' for first person use) is not accurate; speakers in all varieties of English use both 'shall' and 'will' with all subject pronouns and nouns.  In modern English, 'will' is more common and 'shall' sounds quite formal and often old-fashioned.  In most contexts there is no difference in the meaning, however we cannot use 'shall' to describe typical behaviour/habits:

He will (not shall) often work late into the night.

This is the most common distinction, but there are some other differences in use in specific contexts and there is a distinction in use in legal English.  For a detailed summary of this, see this page.

In both of your sentences it is possible to use both 'shall' and 'will'.  As the first sentence is much more formal 'shall' is perhaps more likely.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Sir Peter M,
that page you referred me, it is wikipedia free encyclopedia, if i was that much intelligent to understand things individually without any help, then i would not asked you,

Hello Baloch Faisal,

As I said in a previous reply, we must deal with a large number of queries and comments here on LearnEnglish every day and it's simply not possible for us to provide comprehensive grammatical explanations in the comments sections.  Our role here is to provide help for learners in terms of understanding and using the materials on the site, and to provide help with specific queries about language items - as we have in this case.  However, we cannot provide language lessons in the comments as we have to reply to large numbers of questions every day.  Therefore, while we are happy to give help on particular examples and/or issues, we aren't able to detail every feature of a given language area such as every possible use of shall and will, and all the possible differences in use and meaning.  That, really, is a job for a teacher and goes beyond the role of this site.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Hello, about expressing the future I need to know if the follow sentences are correct:
A) You two look really shocked.What's the matter?
B)We've just learnt that we're having twins!
Thanks.

Hello pensionatostudente,

Both sentences look fine to me, though A doesn't refer to the future.

Best wishes,

Kirk
The LearnEnglish Team

hello, i need to ask you something about plan n promise. can I write like this?
1. I am going to tell you my secrets tomorrow.
2. I will tell you my secrets tomorrow.
how to differentiate them?in this case, i dont know the difference between plan and promise because i think i can make my promise into plan .
thank you

Hello agangani,

In these uses 'going to' describes and action which we have thought about before we do it (this is why we describe it as a 'plan'), whereas 'will' describes an action that is spontaneous or not previously thought about.  Your first sentence, therefore, suggests that telling the secrets is something you have thought about and decided before, and now you are telling someone of that choice.  Your second sentence suggests that you have just this moment decided to do this, without really thinking about it before.

Please remember, however, that the use of different future forms in English is very much dependent on (a) the speaker's intentions and (b) the context.  That means that there are usually several possible forms in any given situation which you can correctly use; which you choose depends upon your perspective of the action/situation.  The two sentences you give here are good examples of this as both are quite correct and quite possible.

Best wishes,

 

Peter

The LearnEnglish Team

Pages